If you don’t know what to do, simply do SOMETHING! Don’t let your insecurities hold you back.
Christel Oerum is the creator of DiabetesStrong.com, a health and exercise website for people living with diabetes. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and lives by the motto “there is nothing you can’t do with diabetes”.
Christel is very active in the diabetes advocacy community. She is on the board of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Los Angeles advocacy committee and a presenter at the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) national Type 1 Nation Summits.
Prior to creating Diabetes Strong, Christel worked in the diabetes industry for more than a decade in various companies. She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration, Strategy, and Finance from Copenhagen Business School and UCLA Anderson School of Business.
Christel was born in Denmark and moved to the US in 2009 with her husband. She now lives in Santa Monica, California. When she isn’t working, there is a good chance you can find her at the gym or on a local hiking trail.
Where did the idea for Diabetes Strong come from?
I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and started Diabetes Strong because I struggled to find trustworthy and easily accessible online information about exercise and healthy nutrition when living with diabetes. I quickly realized that there was a great need in the diabetes community for this information so I decided to create a website where I could share my own advice and invite experts from the diabetes community to contribute.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I typically work out and get most of the non-business tasks (grocery shopping, etc.) done before noon. This leaves the afternoon and evening (if needed) open for work without too many interruptions.
I have worked hard to create a business where I set all my own deadlines and have very few meetings and calls. This makes it easier to prioritize working on the most important stuff first and staying productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a giant whiteboard (yes, I am old school) in the living room that I use for brainstorming with my husband (who is also my business partner). We write down all our ideas and try to map them out in as much detail as possible before making decisions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I don’t know if it’s a trend outside very specific niches like ours, but I am very excited about being in an industry based on collaboration rather than competition. Diabetes Strong doesn’t have competitors. Instead, we work closely with all the other major diabetes websites and actively help each other grow. We do this because we know that a person who reads one diabetes website typically also read several others. This means that it’s much more interesting for us to attract new readers to the industry as a whole than trying to fight each other for individual readers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am not afraid to ask for advice or pay for expert help. Spending days or weeks on something that an expert could have taught me in a few hours is not a good use of my time. I have more important things to do than proving that I can do stuff myself.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If you don’t know what to do, simply do SOMETHING! Don’t let your insecurities hold you back. The truth is that entrepreneurs have moments all the time where they don’t know what to do. The successful ones are the ones that act decisively anyway. Inaction is almost always worse than making mistakes. You will make A LOT of mistakes on the way to success.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Time is much more important than money. My husband and I will never make as much as we did in our corporate management jobs by running Diabetes Strong but we will have a lot more time and flexibility to live the life we want. And that’s a lot more important!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Network. EVERY start-up business is a networking business, so start building your network right away. Reach out to the other people in your industry and ask how you can collaborate. And remember to give back more than you receive, it will pay dividends in the end. Contrary to popular belief, nice people do finish first when it comes to entrepreneurship.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Networking. I knew from day 1 that connecting with other diabetes websites, organizations, influencers, and companies was the best way to grow quickly. I have volunteered my time, given interviews, and probably written almost as many posts for other websites as I have for Diabetes Strong and this has very quickly established my name in the diabetes community.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the beginning, I didn’t realize the importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I mostly focused on social media and other diabetes websites for traffic as that gave some quick wins. But if you want to have a lot of readers as an online publisher, Google search is really the only way to get them (unless you pay for traffic). Especially after Facebook changed their algorithm to limit the reach of business pages, social media traffic has become unreliable. To overcome this, we now invest a lot of time and energy in SEO and have seen amazing growth.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If I didn’t have a website myself, I would start a blogger manager business. There are thousands of bloggers and content creators out there who just want to create great content without worrying about SEO, technical website optimization, sponsorship deals, etc. I think there is a market for managing a portfolio of bloggers and helping them grow and make money.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spend a little over $100 to have someone redesign our newsletter template. This would have taken me days to do myself (it required coding) and wouldn’t have looked nearly as good. I love outsourcing everything I possibly can!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Grammarly is invaluable for me, especially because English isn’t my native language (I’m Danish). I always check everything I write in Grammarly to make sure it’s at least decent grammatically.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love reading but I honestly never read business-related books. I much prefer learning from articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcasts.
If you are looking for a non-business book, I can highly recommend “The Power of Positive Thinking”. It’s a good self-help book that can support you in framing the right mindset to be successful.
What is your favorite quote?
“There is no such thing as luck, merely opportunity meeting preparedness“. George S. Patton Jr
• EVERY start-up business is a networking business, so start building your network right away. Reach out to the other people in your industry and ask how you can collaborate.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or pay for help – even if your business isn’t making money yet. You shouldn’t spend your time on something that someone else can do better and faster.
• Action is always better than inaction. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.